3 Years Ago, My Dad Died – Jeremy Austill
3 Years Ago, My Dad Died

Three years ago today my dad passed away. No one reading can escape the inevitability of wrestling with the death of someone dear to the heart. We are all in the same boat, being able to identify with one another on a very personal, meaningful level. When I read of a friend, even a distant acquaintance, who loses a father, my soul is pricked and it bleeds a little with compassion and heartache. It is something with which I can identify and empathize without much effort. I feel it…I feel the person who is enduring the loss.

Feelings are interesting. I cannot recall the last time I shed a tear over my dad no longer being a living part of my life. I have the faintest concern that possibly I am not honoring him sufficiently because of a lack of grief. Certainly this morning as I looked through a few videos
and photos my heart felt pressure and my throat acquired a lump, but the sharpness of the pain has subsided over time. In the early days, it didn’t take much to illicit tears and the sorrow had a physical nature. It reached into the deep places of my body and wrenched muscles and organs.

A photo, Bass Pro Shop, the Vols, a Super Bowl, the plant in my office, the smell of gun oil, my truck, my phone contacts…the list was lengthy of things that triggered intense emotions. Over three years the intensity has dulled and settled into a muted, but ever present ache.

You become accustomed to it…you get used to it…but it seems I will never be rid of the undercurrent of loss. I cannot count the amount of times I still instinctively think to call him. Harvesting a deer with his muzzleloader rifle a couple of weeks ago created this unusual sense of connection…a bond with who he was…a tie to his nature…for a brief few moments, it felt as if we were sharing a moment. Theologically I don’t really believe in the idea that my dad was “with me”, yet in the subtlest ways, he was right there. Three years in, and one minute you are going about your business, attentive to the task and at hand, and in a moment you are pulled into another time and place. 

While he was living, our relationship was what it was. The father son dynamic is special and at times uncomfortable. I see it playing it out with my own 8 year old son. He has this ever present tension of wanting to conquer me, to destroy me…yet this intense yearning to be near me, to press against my strength and be validated by my voice. The internal pull to not need dad, to be individually capable…yet the peace which accompanies his company and shelter. In death, the narrative hones in a little more to the things that matter most.

My dad was special. He isn’t your dad so the nuances of his life would be lost on you so I will refrain from all the details. I can say I am incredibly proud of my dad. His life story is utterly fascinating and an inspiration. He was beloved by many. He had this unusual mixture of joy and focus. He was the life of the party and someone everyone enjoyed being around, but he had an authoritative edge which caused people to not cross him. He commanded respect and compelled people to great loyalty. He was very focused on doing a job with excellence, but along the way he had the ability to pause and be human. I could go on all day…

The Lord is so strategic. So many of the things I have needed to lead in the capacity I am assigned to lead were embedded in my dad and passed down to me. The Lord imagined me and released me into earthly existence with an assignment and funneled me through a dad from whom I would inherit strategic equipment for the task ahead. Maybe for that I am most grateful. If you never met my dad, you have certainly seen him in my mannerisms, demeanor and function as a leader. If my life has affected yours positively, my dad’s ways are a contributing factor. My dad had no clue just how much of who he was has affected so many lives, not just directly but also through his son.

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